HHS Coronavirus Response Highlights

Published: April 21, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicHHSProcurementSpending Trends

The Department of Health and Human Services has been working feverishly to halt the public health emergency caused by COVID-19. This blog summarizes the HHS response to date, along with an analysis of agency spending and procurement notices related to the novel coronavirus.

Key Takeaways:

  • HHS has been working to protect public health by expediting clinical trials, improving the supply chain, developing public-private partnerships, expanding telehealth use, and disbursing relief and response funding.
  • To date, HHS has allocated $3.6B in contracted funds to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The bulk of this spending, $3.1B, was for medical and scientific equipment.
  • HHS has also been seeking assistance in their efforts via announcements in the System for Awards Management (SAM).  To date, it has published 76 announcements, 29 of which were for research and development needs.

Tasked with the mission of providing Americans with effective health and human services and fostering advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services, HHS is a critical focal point in battling the coronavirus pandemic. HHS has had to enable employees not only to continue operations, but also to ramp up efforts within agencies such as FDA to speed tests and drugs to the market, and CDC to track the spread of the disease.

Below are highlights of HHS efforts by agency to date to respond to the COVID-19 crisis:

HHS Department-wide including Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR):

  • Secretary Azar declared a Public Health Emergency for US on January 31st and designated Admiral Giroir to coordinate COVID-19 diagnostic testing efforts in mid-March.
  • HHS has been collaborating and working with Regeneron, Janssen, Sanofi, Cepheid, Mesa Biotech and DOD for treatments, vaccines, tests, and diagnostics.
  • HHS has also been seeking submissions for diagnostic developments, leveraging Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to speed solutions, procuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers, and soliciting proposals for development of medical products.
  • HHS began initial funding to jurisdictions supporting COVID-19 response in early March, then provided $100M to help U.S. health care systems prepare for COVID-19 patients prior to the passage of the CARES Act.
  • HHS expanded telehealth access to fight COVID-19 in mid-March.
  • HHS and DOD coordinated an international airlift of coronavirus supplies later in March.
  • HHS began accepting donations of medicine to the Strategic National Stockpile as possible treatments for COVID-19 patients in late March.
  • HHS has accelerated clinical trials and begun preparing for vaccine manufacturing.
  • HHS entered into contracts with GM, GE and Phillips for ventilators under the Defense Production Act.
  • HHS and FEMA are working to address shortages of PPE and other critical supplies. Additionally, HHS is providing millions of TYVEK Protective Suits for U.S. health care workers.
  • On April 10th, HHS began distributing $30B of the $100B relief funds for providers in support of the national response to COVID-19 as part of the CARES Act.


  • NIH officials began discussing coronavirus emerging from China in late January. 
  • Since then, NIH has launched clinical trials of possible therapeutics such as remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
  • NIH has also begun clinical trials of investigational vaccines for COVID-19.
  • NIH is working to bring structure to COVID-19 drug development and has launched a public-private partnership with more than a dozen biopharmaceutical companies to speed COVID-19 vaccine and treatment options to the market.


  • CDC began confirming cases of coronavirus in U.S. in late January and began shipping diagnostic test kits in early February.
  • FDA and CDC have been working together to increase access to respirators, including N95 masks, for health care personnel.
  • In early March, CDC began awarding over $560M to state & local jurisdictions in support of COVID-19 response and in early April, it announced that it would begin providing another $186M in funding.


  • FDA took action in January by announcing efforts to advance the development of novel coronavirus medical countermeasures.
  • In early February, FDA issued emergency use authorization for the first 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diagnostic and in late March, it issued it for a point of care diagnostic.  
  • In late February, FDA issued a new policy to help expedite availability of diagnostics, as well as regulatory relief during the outbreak.
  • FDA and CDC have been working together to increase access to respirators, including N95 masks, for health care personnel.
  • FDA began to allow expanded use of devices to monitor patients’ vital signs remotely.
  • FDA has also been coordinating the national effort to develop blood-related therapies for COVID-19.
  • FDA has issued emergency use authorizations to decontaminate N95 respirators.
  • FDA, Gates Foundation, UnitedHealth Group, Quantigen, and U.S. Cotton are collaborating to address testing supply needs.


  • CMS has issued detailed guidance to providers about the COVID-19 virus.
  • Telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries have been expanded during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Due to the expansion of the Accelerated/Advance Payment Program, CMS was able to provide approximately $34B to Medicare providers in just one week to help them battle the pandemic.
  • On April 19th, CMS issued new regulatory requirements for nursing homes instructing them to inform residents, their families and representatives, of COVID-19 cases in their facilities.

Other HHS Agencies:

  • In early April, HHS through HRSA awarded more than $1.3B to 1,387 health centers as part of the CARES Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In early April, IHS received more than $1B for coronavirus response from the CARES Act. It is also expanding telehealth services during the crisis.
  • ONC sat up the ability to tag COVID-19 health IT projects in the Interoperability Proving Ground (IPG) to allow the community to share information about the projects taking place across the nation.
  • The ACF plans to begin releasing CARES Act funding to support childcare via the Development Block Grant.
  • SAMHSA will fund $110M in emergency grants to provide treatment for substance use disorders and serious mental illness during the coronavirus pandemic.

To date, HHS has obligated $3.6B in contract funds to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The charts below show a breakdown of the contract spending to date.

In addition, HHS has been announcing its need for products and services in the System for Award Management (SAM). The charts below show a breakdown of the number of announcements by agency and by primary requirement.

HHS will continue to need contractor support to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Agency needs range from PPE, medical supplies and equipment, to pharmaceuticals, health care staffing, construction, information technology, medical surveillance, biomedical research, and cleaning services.